Much has changed over the course of the last couple of decades of grade school education. Gone are the days of chalkboards, spelling tests, dunce caps, static information and preparation for an industrial world. Replacing that are phones, tablets, virtual classrooms, fluid information and preparation for a digital world.
As long as there has been mandatory schooling, there has been the question about how to motivate students to achieve. Teachers have always striven to create fantastic lessons that would inform, enlighten and inspire the students entrusted to their care. They have done this by facilitating student learning through creating excellent and engaging performance tasks that allow students to learn and grow.
A new development in education that has arrived with modern technology is the opportunity to “gamify” learning, or to use students natural inclination towards participatory or interactive story in order to achieve learning goals. Throughout the year we have tried to gamify the year in a number of different ways, and we have a number yet to come. For instance, we just finished playing the classic Apple IIe game, Oregon Trail, and using it to create six different primary source documents that would allow future westward pioneers to learn from our own successes and failures travelling the trail. Additionally, we have been engaging in a long-term simulation called the Game of Crowns, where students have taken on the role of Old World imperialist nation in an effort to exploit the resources of the Americas faster and more effectively than their rivals. Other learning adventures have included “Classcraft” where students create an avatar that will work collaboratively with a small group to exemplify the best responsible learning characteristics of 21st century learners in an 11th century mystical world, Agents of UNESCO, where students use logic to keep the world’s historic treasures safe and we will be playing Haciendas of the Mexica, a Settlers of Catan-based game that teaches students about Colonial Mexico.
The gamification of learning is intended to create rich and lasting educational experiences that draw on learning modalities that are already effective with students as they grow and develop as learners.